The Springboks’ big-name sevens convert, Francois Hougaard, has no doubt Quade Cooper can gain Olympics selection despite limited exposure to rugby’s frenetic shortened game.
Unlike Cooper, who only has two or three world series tournaments to prove his worth, Hougaard is sacrificing a full Super Rugby season to make the South African team for the Rio Games.
There are grave doubts over whether the Wallabies showman has the time to learn the game, lift his aerobic fitness and gel with teammates after being overlooked for this weekend’s Sydney Sevens.
He is now only guaranteed a release by French club Toulon for tournaments in Paris and London in May, while the ARU is optimistic he may also play next month in Las Vegas.
But Hougaard says if anyone can make that work, it’s Cooper.
The 35-Test Boks halfback believes the mercurial playmaker is ideally suited to sevens and has the skill and nous to make a swift transition.
“Quade Cooper is a phenomenal athlete and he is the type of guy who adapts very quickly to any system,” Hougaard told AAP.
“I think sevens has a lot of structure and the Australian team has a lot of structure but he’s the sort of guy that slots in quickly.
“He’s a free-rein guy who has a lot of skills and can create for the team and the team can benefit a lot from him.
“I think it’s more than enough (tournaments). He would be a great sevens player.”
New Zealand coaching guru Sir Gordon Tietjens is among those who doubts Cooper has enough time to adapt to the game and has warned he and Australia could be badly exposed by the gamble.
Like the South Africans with Hougaard, the Kiwis have their star recruit, Sonny Bill Williams, available for all legs of the world series.
In contrast, Australia is also rolling the dice with Wallabies wingers Henry Speight and Nick Cummins set to play four tournaments.
Hougaard, who is largely coming off the bench for South Africa, is confident he can book a ticket to Rio.
“I want to prove myself as a rugby player, as a sportsman,” he said.
“For me it doesn’t feel like I’ve really achieved anything for myself and I’m going to go out and give it my best shot.”